Opinions of Monday, 21 August 2017
Columnist: Kofi Ali Abdul Yekin
I am called an ECOWAS citizen and I know I am indeed an ECOWAS citizen. I was even given an ECOWAS passport to confirm my new identity. I have travelled with my ECOWAS passport, in place of my former Ghanaian passport, and I have been recognised as a citizen of ECOWAS across the world.
I am fully aware of my citizenship role as an ECOWAS taxpayer, who pays his tax directly to the regional authority, whenever I pay my ECOWAS tariff on anything imported into Ghana or anywhere within West Africa. I am aware of my official role as the one who has to be voting directly for my members of the ECOWAS parliament, since the ineffective indirect voting is just a transitional phase, pending when the majority of the citizens of the member states prove they are ready enough for the direct voting.
The problem arises when I start encouraging my fellow ECOWAS citizens to join in demanding for our ECOWAS citizenship rights. This is when my fellow ECOWAS compatriots start asking me if ECOWAS is a country? Sure, ECOWAS is a country to a patriotic citizen like me. This is why, good or bad, I try as much as possible to connect anything with ECOWAS.
I hardly lose any opportunity of establishing the duty of the ECOWAS to me and my responsibilities to her. My last article titled "The ECOWAS Authority is Equally Responsible for the Sierra Leone Misfortune" says a lot on what I make of ECOWAS. I engage in making anything, from economics, politics, laws, education, industrialisation, construction, transportation, food, farming, socialisation, trade, sports, defence, security and culture, connected to ECOWAS.
It is obvious I am becoming a nuisance to a lot of the ECOWAS skeptics who feel ECOWAS is a wishful distant hopeless dream, by which nothing good can possibly come out of. The antagonists are quick to argue that if the member states political leaders who are closer to the citizens, have been nothing but failure to their people, how can the act of directly electing the same bunch of politicians to the level of ECOWAS make any difference? One of the common defence the ECOWAS skeptics put to me, apart from the use of "AFRICAN leaders are all incurably corrupt", is to ask me whether ECOWAS is a country?
Anytime the question of whether ECOWAS is a country is posed at me, I find myself hesitating to say yes, when deep within me, the word no, is not an option. My inability to reply yes outright has everything to do with the respect I have for the individuals asking me the question. I am fully aware most people are not informed enough to know what makes an authority assume the status of a country. So since the average layman understands things by their basic conventional meaning, an entity is considered a country simply because everyone calls it a country. So to most, it is only a country if everyone calls it a country.
So even if it has all the features of a country, if everyone is not calling it a country, then it must never be called a country. Thus if anyone like Kofi Ali calls ECOWAS a country, then Kofi Ali is committing an act of Blacksphermy and punishable of crucifixion.
Who wants to be a martyr, in the world of ethno tribally blind and indoctrinated zombies? So like most of the early Christians or Muslims, who found it difficult to disclose their beliefs and identity in the early days of their faith, Kofi Ali struggles to yes, ECOWAS is my country and I am a proud citizen of ECOWAS!
The part that beat my imagination is why the ECOWAS skeptics seem to have no problem with the EU behaving like a country and has the features of a country. The ECOWAS skeptics see nothing wrong with the EU citizens having the right to vote directly in electing their EU MPs and the EU Parliament operates exactly like the Ghana parliament.
The ECOWAS skeptics see nothing wrong with the citizens of EU member states voting directly for both the members of their national parliament and those of the regional parliament. These same individuals are quick to dispute why one should even dare compare the EU authority with the ECOWAS authority. If fact it will be an understatement to say the ECOWAS skeptics are unreasonable, they are totally sick! They suffer from a form of yet to be discovered version of inferiority complex.
I took to the belief of ECOWAS being a country after weighing several convincing literatures on the subject, and the benefit therein. I did this by making sure I study the history of evolution of countries across the world and I noticed that every one of the named countries in the world, is unique by its formation and purpose but the fundamentals are basically the same to all. So without wasting too much of the readers' time, in going over the history of countries across the world, I will be starting by trying to define what most people will generally be accepting a country to mean.
I will define a country to be, any socio-eco-political authority with a defined geographical location and population referred to as its citizens, headed (lead) by one of the members (citizens), in determining their common destiny. If this definition is the acceptable position of any country in the world, then ECOWAS meet up with the condition of a country and I, the proud citizen of ECOWAS.
The worse radio and TV presenters I have come across, are ECOWAS skeptics who talk about African and Africans, like talking about a country and its people. Anytime this happens, I step in to engage in making the correction that African is a continent and not a country.
I agree to be less diplomatic in discouraging anyone from comparing Africa with China or India. I argue that India and China are countries with citizens on the continent of Asia. I explain that it is misleading to speak about Africa, China, India, Russia and the USA like they are all countries. In return, those I try to correct defend themselves by asking me for, why ECOWAS should be considered a country if Africa is not qualified to be called a country?
In a way, I took up the passion of exploring and explaining the history of the USA to the ECOWAS skeptics. I made it clear that what ended up as a country called the USA started as cluster of some loose ex British colonies of North America. I have the habit of comparing these ex British colonies of North America with the present West African countries.
I also tried to use the ongoing developments in the European Union, to explain how countries are formed from several countries in a specific geographical location. I then try to make comparison of the developments in the EU with ECOWAS, in explaining to my fellow West Africans, how our su regional body is evolving into the United States of West Africa. This is still very difficult for most of our halfback educated ECO skeptics to understand. Well, I do understand, so half the battle is won.
Another area of confusion is whether a stronger Federal ECOWAS serves the interest of the West African better or a loose Confederal ECOWAS is enough to advance the common interest of the population better? The only way to overcome this challenge, of whether my country ECOWAS should exist as a strong federal authority or a weak Confederal authority, is to allow all citizens to be voting directly in the election of the regional members of Parliament. This is so because whether the ECOWAS authority will be federal or confederal, the laws made by the law makers of the ECOWAS Parliament is what will determine the future of the union. So the longer we delay in allowing ordinary ECOWAS citizens to participate directly in the election of their ECOWAS MPs, the more we delay the inevitable. As long as the ECOWAS exist, which it does, we are only wasting time in doing what we shall do anyway.
It is important at this stage, to mention that like the authority of the government of Ghana, the ECOWAS authority is a direct tax collector from her citizens. The introduction of the direct ECOWAS Tariff on all member state citizens, than the traditional indirect approach that is still the means by which the AU and UN raise their revenues from member state governments, make the West AFRICAN regional authority directly accountable to the citizens of West Africa. The collection of this tax directly from the citizens by the ECOWAS authority create a kind of relationship between the insured and the insurer, where the tax payers of ECOWAS are those insuring themselves and the ECOWAS authority serving as the insurer.
In the past, the government of Ghana collects all tax from the Ghanaian, as the insurance fee in return for security and development of the Ghanaian. The interesting thing is Ghana government as a whole entity then re-insure itself with the ECOWAS, the AU and the UN, against any unforeseen circumstance. So by giving these institutions some of the tax proceeds, they in turn are obliged to respond to the invitation of the Ghana government on the insured developments that challenge the interest of the insured. The relationship is totally between the Ghana government and the institutions with whom the government insured itself. On no account does any of these institutions deals directly with a citizen of the insured country without doing this through insured (national government).
The above approach makes the government of Ghana who directly collects the tax from the Ghanaian the sole insurer. The change with the introduction of the ECOWAS Tariff that makes ECOWAS collect her tax share directly from the citizen, while the old system is sustained with the AU and UN, transform the relationship between the Ghanaian and ECOWAS which is no more the same as before. The ECOWAS authority can now deal directly with the citizen of Ghana, in honouring the relationship between the insured and the insurer, without going through the government of Ghana.
Since we, the citizens of ECOWAS are now direct tax payers to the regional authority, it will be unreasonable to sit by our national government for regional security and development, while the ECOWAS pretends not to exist in our lives. If we are paying our tax directly to ECOWAS, then we expect more than we are currently getting.
Whatever is the case, it's time we seek for legal clarification from the ECOWAS Court of Justice. It is important we seek for further clarification on the definition of "regional security and development", as whatever this currently means, is far below our expectation and very vague. It is our right to express our displeasure with the role ECOWAS is playing in our regional security and development. It's also important we start intensifying our demand of voting directly for our ECOWAS MPs, for laws that will be determining whether we are going to be a strong federal body or a weak Confederal bunch. Either way, we must have our day in the regional court of law, before the unfortunate disaster in Sierra Leone waste our lives again.